From Christmas lights to trees, gift-wrapping, ornaments, sumptuous meals and carols what started as a most significant Christian celebration has taken on a major commercial significance. In a sense, Christmas has become all about spending. Amidst it all, it is so easy to lose sight of the true meaning of Christmas. What can you do this year that epitomizes the true spirit of Christmas? Here are a few ideas that are worth considering:
The definition of a philanthropist is “someone who donates his or her time, money, and/or reputation to charitable causes.” By giving back to your community, religious organizations, for education, for sports or for the arts, you afford yourself the opportunity and indeed the privilege of making a positive impact on other people’s lives. Material possessions will eventually lose their shine, but through philanthropy, one can make an impact, and can shape or even save lives.
What causes do you identify with?
Decide what initiatives you may want to support and then review your finances to decide how much you can afford to give. Will it be a one-off donation this Christmas or is it something you can continue to commit to year on year. Narrow your choices down to a few charities or initiatives that you can identify with and do some research on them to ensure that their ethos and mission is in consonance with your core values; then choose say one or two to support. Follow up to see the impact your action is having.
We all love to see the excitement on children’s faces on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning ripping the wrapping paper off their presents. The experience of receiving piles of gifts makes them believe that they must have lots of new things for Christmas to be perfect. Try to emphasize the non-material aspects of the season, such as family, fellowship and thoughtfulness.
“It’s what you do and not what you say”
It is not enough to just tell children to be charitable and kind. Our own actions in supporting others or changing lives will speak louder than any thing we can say. We must guide them through a program of action so that it becomes ingrained into their psyche. It teaches them a powerful lesson about kindness and generosity and that their personal money or talent can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of others. It will also show them graphically how fortunate they are; as they take so much for granted.
There are so many people in need of the most basic necessities that only a privileged few can take for granted. Think about all the food that goes to waste on Christmas day and what a difference it would make to the numerous homeless people who would be glad for a decent meal and some of the clothes you no longer need.
Visit the elderly
Have you ever visited an old peoples’ home in Nigeria? Get a few friends, put some money together and take some gifts and treats to the elderly who have found themselves in one of a handful of old peoples’ homes in the country, as our extended family social system evolves to a more nuclear model. Cheer them up; the gift of happiness and good stimulating company for an old person who might be lonely during the holiday season, would make such a difference.
How is your Alma Mater doing?
Do you often reminisce about how things used to be at your old school and how far standards have fallen? Why don’t you do something about it? With an endowed gift, you can provide permanent support for the educational institution. Your contributions will be invested and each year a distribution made to fund the program or area that matches your interest in a particular field of study. Once it is officially established, you or anyone else may continue to add to the fund at any time. You may also decide to, through the title, forever link your name or that of a family member to excellence at the college. Your contribution will go a long way in improving the standards of education so badly needed in our country.
Be grateful for what you have
Even if you have had a really hard year yourself, and it sounds absurd to even conisder giving what you don’t have, focus instead of being grateful for what you do have. If you look around, you will find that there is always someone worse off than you are; unemployment and deepening poverty have become normal for millions of Nigerians
Give of your time and talent
Giving does not mean that you must give only financially; there are several ways to give meaningfully. Can you commit to teaching someone how to read, how to play a musical instrument, how to code, how to sew or bake? What can you teach? The possibilities of giving of your time, experience, talent and intellect are endless and by sharing your knowledge with others you can add sustained value to your community in this way.
Give Christmas investments
Amidst the toys and gadgets, include financial gifts for your children. Cash will always be a favourite, but there are ways of giving money that keep giving. The gift of a mutual fund invested in a portfolio of money market securities or equities, will get them started in a life of saving and investing.
The gift of health insurance for a family that cannot afford decent health care would have a huge impact on their lives. Don’t just give it; teach them what it means, so that after the period of your gift, they will be encouraged to stay insured.
As we get caught up in the whirlwind of festivity, socializing and present buying, it is little wonder that we often forget the true meaning of Christmas. How can you make a difference? If you haven’t been doing much for others before now, this is a good time to start. As you prepare for Christmas, let us not forget what we have been given; God’s gift of His Son Jesus Christ.
This Christmas, be a blessing to others.